The Irish connection and a bit of Church-hopping!

This weekend in Canada is Labour Weekend, with today being Labour today, so a lot of the students here have gone traveling around or visiting. I decided to do a little more exploring myself this weekend and headed off to look for the local RC Churches as well as a trip to St. Patrick's Basilica and Notre Dame Basilica. Saturday morning, armed with my map, suncream and my 'petit peu du francais', little bit of French, I set off!

St. Patrick's Basilica
First stop was St. Patrick's Basilica. I came across this by chance about 2 weeks ago when I was googling free Catholic books to e-read. When I went to the homepage I realised it was the homepage of the Basilica so I read up on it and decided a visit definitely had to be planned. Providence!
Entrance to St. Patrick's Basilica, Ottawa

Ok, finding the place wasn't the easiest...people kept re-directing me to Notre Dame Basilica (more about that later!), which is on the other side of the city. After a lot of walking and getting lost (people who know me know that this happens frequently!) I finally found St. Patrick's. There was a wedding party just leaving so I could actually go in and look around! My first impression was that it was quite dark and not very attractive but as I walked around I began to appreciate the beauty of its architectural features, the multitude of statues (very Irish!) and above all, the fact that people were actually praying in the Church. There was a long queue for Confessions, something I haven't seen in a long time, except at Youth 2000 retreats and in Poland. I explored the Church a little, made a little pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Patrick (the votive candles were even green!) and said a few prayers here.

Saint Patrick's Basilica is the oldest English speaking Catholic parish in Ottawa. It was founded in 1855, although its development goes back much further. Construction of the present Church began in 1868 and it is not listed when it finished In the beginning, Saint Patrick's looked after all the English-speaking Catholics in Ottawa and across the river in Hull. Gradually, as the English Catholic population increased, new parishes were established and the territory of Saint Patrick's was reduced. The Irish have always played an important part in Saint Patrick's parish and most of its parish priests aka pastors have been of Irish descent.

I had checked out the place online before I went and saw that they have an impressive gift and bookshop so I decided to pay a visit as I also needed a crucifix for my room! When I went down into the crypt where the gift shop is, I also discovered that there is a Catholic library, cool or what! I was met by a lovely Austrian man called Frank who has been in Canada for over 60 years or so and has a sister a nun so he was thrilled to met an Irish sister. He knows every single book in the library, he truly is a treasure trove of information. He introduced me to the parish sister, Sr. Hope Corkery (how Irish a name is that!). Her brother, Monsignor David Corkery was the first named rector of the Basilica in 1998 and was very instrumental in it being named as a Basilica. He has since has passed to his eternal reward. Sr. Hope introduced me to lots of lovely people form the Parish among whom, Carole and Terence, a Ukrainian rite brother and sister who later came to my assistance when I got lost in Downtown when making my way home. Sr. Hope has been so kind to me and even called me once or twice to see if I am settling in okay or need anything! The Lord really does put guardian angels along our way!

Notre Dame Cathedral, Ottawa

On Sunday, I took advantage of the lovely sunshine and walked to the Basilica Notre Dame of Ottawa. It is a beautiful edifice, built in 1839, during the papacy of Pope Gregory XVI. In 1847 it became a cathedral and then in 1879 Pope Leo XIII erected it as minor basilica. Over ten years ago a project of restoration began and it is still continuing at the present moment. Points of particular interest are:
  • The statue of the Mother and Child, 3mt high which is between the two bell-towers.
  • The High Altar with polychrome panels which depict the Nativity, Jesus teaching and the Resurrection. 
  • The highly ornate bronze tabernacle.
  • The 52 mahogany choir stalls, Gothic style from the 16th century, inspired by the Cathedral of Auch in France.
  • The altar of the Immaculate Conception. The Cathedral is dedicated to our Lady thus 8th of December is a big feast-day! 
  • The sacristy: it is huge, 24 mt x 11 mt. It contains beautiful oak wardrobes.
  • The crypt: it contains the tombs of various bishops as well as the private chapel of the archbishop. 
I lit a candle here and prayed for your intentions
I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to visit it all in detail. Sunday being Sunday, there were various Masses and rightly so, the Cathedral is cordoned off from visiting. I attended the 10.30am Solemn Mass in French and what a treat it was!  There was great assembly participation and a sense of prayer. A cantor led the assembly and nearly everyone sung.The celebration finished at 11.40am...nobody seemed to be in a hurry to get out! Imagine a Mass that took an hour and ten minutes! The priest greeted people before Mass and afterwards, looking out for new faces in the assembly and making a special effort to say bonjour! After Mass, I spent a little time at the altar of our Lady, lit a candle for all my family, community and friends and headed on my merry way so as to be home in time for lunch!

The walk home was very sprightly as it is a good 40 minutes walk back to the Residence. Along the way, I encountered many 'alternative' ways of travel. On Sundays, the roads around the canal are closed for 'Dimanche a velo/Bicycle Sunday' so no cars are allowed. I saw people jogging with babies in their buggies, grannies and grandads on roller-blades, tandem bikes, bikes with special buggies attached, rollerblading mammies with prams, electric bikes, kayaks (in the canal obviously!), power walkers, joggers and plain-old strollers who were enjoying a grace-filled Sunday! I felt very unfit just looking at them! Next step is to invest in a bike before the winter sets in! Ciao x
Photo gallery (church pics are near the end of the album)